West Papua and Raja Ampat
Tucked into the farthest reaches of the Indonesian archipelago are some of the most untouched landscapes and pristine reefs in the world. The western half of the island of New Guinea, Papua is the realm of spectacular birds of paradise and their elaborate mating dances, marsupials such as the cuscus and tree kangaroo and beautiful butterflies. Native tribal groups such as the Dani, Asmat and Korowai live in traditional villages in the interior and maintain cultural practices such as traditional dress, dance and woodcarving.
Take a walk through the jungle on one of the islands to spot wildlife and visit a fishing village or plan a more in depth exploration to visit the Baliem Valley, take in the spectacular views, shop for stone axes and penis gourds in the local market and attend a Dani pig festival.
Known for its biodiversity, the marine life is outstanding here. Four beautiful islands called Raja Ampat are surrounded by spectacular reefs swarming with fish. Brilliantly hued soft corals and sea fans, sponges, tunicates, crinoids and hard corals create a habitat for tiny shrimp, giant clams, nudibranchs, and sea stars while turtles, schools of tangs, runners and triggerfish roam the reef. Dense schools of snapper and sweetlips hang effortlessly in brisk currents and wobbegong and epaulette sharks lurk beneath. Mangrove forests fringe the islands, filtering the sunlight onto the corals just below the surface.
Even more remote and still being explored, Fakfak and Triton Bay offer wild diversity and mysterious rock paintings. Manokwari and Biak still hold the wreckage of intense fighting during WWII both above and below the surface. Cenderawasih Bay is a favorite gathering place of whale sharks. While it does take some travel time to get to these distant locations, the experience waiting for you is well worth the wait.